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  • Writer's pictureTony Donnelly

Convex People

I’ve added a new section to Photography featuring photos of people photographing convex mirrors. This is an ongoing project started in early 2009 and continuing to the present.

A convex mirror offers a very wide field of view as well as a few challenges to the taker of the image. Should they make an effort to avoid being in the shot or should they embrace their reflection and accept their position in the reflective panorama?

I’ve noted a few strategies people use to avoid being fully captured in the shot, the most common being the use of the “long arm technique“. This involves the photographer getting as far out of the shot as possible and doing a ”reach in” from the periphery, with the camera device held firmly outstretched and the shot taken blindly. At times a crude solution that involves trial and error and draws our attention to the intentionality of the photographer with their efforts to avoid being in the shot.

Perhaps the more successful strategy is the “hide behind”- a technique adapted from our hunter/gatherer ancestors requiring a certain degree of subterfuge. Hide behind a tree and bushwhack the unsuspecting prey. This technique also employ the use of adaptive camouflage (Convex People also use disguise involving hats and other coverings).

Some Convex People just accept the futility of trying to avoid the all seeing eye of the convex mirror and openly accept the fate of their reflection being exposed, sometimes giving a “thumbs up” gesture in acknowledgement.

The photos aren’t just photos of convex mirrors and their photographers but also contextualise the shooter in their environment and in some cases give a snapshot of their daily routines, inadvertently catching a fleeting moment involving a spouse, a pet, or a sink full of waiting dishes.

The changing technology used in taking the photographs is also documented, with many of the early images taken using point and shoot 35mm automatic digital cameras, through to contemporary smartphones and iPads.

The modern Convex Photographer is often found using the iPad or tablet in an evolutionary adaptation of the “hide behind” technique to cover their face during the documentation process.

The convex mirror is also well documented in the history of Art. Van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Portrait (c.1434) offers us a tantalising “other” perspective from behind the couple and an insight into their contextual environment.

The Convex Mirror by George Lambert (c.1916) offers a near parallel situation to some Convex People photographs, the artist watches from the side of the mirror while we ”peep” at the scene behind him, always feeling the presence of his gaze.


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